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on the broadcast tonight, the great escape. a mad dash home for the holidays. 92 million americans on the move and whether it's planes, trains or automobiles, it's going to cost you more. stampede. near riots, just two shopping days until christmas. fights, pepper spray, even gunfire as crowds clamor for a must have item. the war on cancer declared 40 years ago today. we have come a long way, but there is still a lot of work left to do. tonight, a status report. and making a difference in new orleans one house at a time. a man on a mission to help rebuild shattered homes and lives. rebuild shattered homes and lives. "nightly news" begins now.
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captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. i'm kate snow, in tonight for brian. on this eve before christmas eve, a whole lot of americans are either trying to get somewhere or waiting for family and friends to come to them. aaa says one-third of the population will be traveling at some point over the holidays. that's a little bit more than last year. most of them are hitting the roads and that is where we find our tom costello tonight, out in the headlights of washington, d.c. tom, good evening. >> reporter: hi, kate. good morning -- good evening to you, rather. it's been a long day for me. you're right. 92 million people. that's a lot of people traveling. so far by all accounts the weather for the most part is cooperating and we are off to a good start on this great holiday escape. from snowy maine to new mexico to southern california -- [ honking ]
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-- where if a car radio isn't tuned to "jingle bells" it may sound like this. >> slowing in the northbound 15. >> nothing will keep me from being with my family. i'm looking forward to it. >> reporter: of the 92 million people traveling 50 miles or more, nearly 84 million of us are driving and only about 5.5 million leisure travellers are flying. that's a big drop of nearly 10% from last year. at $210, the lowest round trip airfare on average is about $35 higher than last year and you will probably still have to pay for your bags. meanwhile, airlines aren't flying as many planes. >> and that means they are trying to get a person in every seat on every plane. there are no free seats. >> reporter: that isn't stopping the farr family from flying to ecuador this christmas. >> it's the world we live in. everything's just going up and up. >> but we have to make a sacrifice. >> reporter: a lot of americans are sacrificing this year. in the grocery aisle, food prices are up 4% to 5% compared to last year.
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meanwhile, at $3.20 a gallon, regular unleaded is 20 cents higher than last christmas. with forecasts it could be headed for $4 a gallon later in the new year. >> if you put it all together i think the holidays are a bit more expensive this year especially when you consider wages have not gone up. so people are still being asked to do more with less. >> reporter: with so many americans driving over the holidays the nation's transportation chief with a fresh warning about his top concern -- distracted driving. >> people need to take it upon themselves to put their cell phone and texting device in the glove compartment when they get in a car. you can't drive safely when you have a cell phone up to your ear. >> reporter: ray lahood is passionate about the issue. back to the airlines for a moment. they are flying 85% full. that means if for whatever reason you miss a flight, chances are you could be waiting days until you are able to get on another flight that has some room. kate, back to you. >> get there early. tom costello, thanks so much.
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the roads are dry in d.c. and across much of the country. but it has been slow going for some folks traveling today, thanks to rough weather out west. kelly cass is tracking it for us at weather channel headquarters. fill us in on who may see the bad weather and who might see a white christmas. >> kate, we were looking at blizzard conditions in new mexico shutting down major interstates. we are going to track the same storm across the southern tier of the country. that is going to bring a lot of rain to texas where we do it will come to texas where we need it and it will get in the way of holiday travel plans into christmas eve. there is rain and snow in texas. believe it or not. if you're dreaming of a white christmas some of you will get your wish. be careful traveling. interstate 20 and i-10, that system heads into the southeast by christmas day itself as you unwrap presents from birmingham to atlanta. if you want a white christmas, you will have to head well north.
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northern new england your best chance for a white christmas and much of the west. very thick snow pack from the rockies down into new mexico where every ski resort in new mexico is open. there is good news if you want to try out the new skis and snowboards this year. kate, back to you. >> a lot of brown on that map though. kelly cass, thanks so much. now to the other mad rush playing out at the mall. it was discouraging today to see the lack of holiday spirit on display when a certain coveted sneaker went on sale. that's right. people were fighting over sneakers today. across the country retailers went into overdrive trying to entice people into stores with deep discounts. nbc's ron mott is in new york's herald square for us this evening with a look at the last-minute shopping frenzy. how's it going out there, ron? >> reporter: hey, there, kate. this macy's is packed tonight. people are finding last-minute deals, and if they are lucky they may find an old favorite that's come back and is literally a door buster. around the country as nike rereleased an air jordan shoe first introduced 15 years ago, stores opened to long lines and
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stampedes. a runaway bestseller. >> getting pushed, tripping and everything. >> reporter: demand for the $180 sneakers prompted broken door hinges in indianapolis, scuffles in seattle. even reported gunfire near san francisco. in atlanta, several arrests. >> sometimes you've just got to give yourself a gift now and then. you know? >> reporter: but this suddenly hot item isn't necessarily a present. by mid afternoon hundreds appeared for sale on ebay. >> yeah, i'll resell it. anybody wants to pay $1,000? >> reporter: with one frenzied shopping day to go, millions of americans motivated by the time crunch are rushing into stores -- stores motivated to clear inventory. >> retailers planned for a promotional holiday season. the weather was warmer than expected. it's causing a few more promotions than originally anticipated. >> reporter: despite record black friday sales of $11.4
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billion and another $26 billion spent last saturday, retailers are still in need of a strong finish. and windows of opportunity are everywhere. 40, 50, 60% off or more. >> we have seen such positivity in shopping that we have decided in the last week to raise our forecast to 3.8% increase over last year. >> reporter: it's not just procrastinators going out at the 11th hour. some are checking their lists twice by making return trips. in new york, shoppers flooded a best buy which announced it won't be able to fill some online orders by christmas. >> i'm trying to trade something in right now, and they are pretty much out of everything. >> reporter: a hectic final push and perhaps a preview of what's to come monday when those after christmas sales begin. late today nike issued a statement asking people to buy these air jordan shoes in a safe manner. some stores are planning to stay open until tomorrow night to lure in as many shoppers and their money as they can.
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kate? >> ron mott in new york tonight. thank you, ron. good news for 160 million americans facing a potential tax hike come the new year. tonight, the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut is a done deal. the house and senate approved the legislation this morning by unanimous consent and the president signed it into law shortly after that. the measure extends unemployment benefits for jobless workers. the agreement between democrats and republicans comes, of course, after weeks of partisan deadlock in washington. >> it's about you. it's about your lives. it's about your families. you didn't send us to this town to play partisan games and to see who's up and who's down. you sent us here to serve and make your lives a little bit better, to do what's right. and fortunately that's how this week ended. >> from washington to wall street. you could almost hear the sigh
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of relief over that compromise. the dow rallied to finish up 124 points. the nasdaq and s&p closed up a as well. we have an update tonight on the earthquake damaged washington monument. you will recall the scenes of daredevil workers hanging 500 feet in the air assessing the damage. now the results of their work are in. inspectors say the 127-year-old monument suffered extensive cracking at its top and loose stones along its entire length. experts say it does remain structurally sound though the cracks left it extremely vulnerable to water collecting on upper floors during rainstorms. the park service has yet to release a timetable for re-opening the monument to the public. overseas tonight in syria, dozens of people killed in twin car bombings outside the headquarters of the intelligence agency in damascus. the attacks are the first of their kind in the syrian capitol since the start of the uprising against president bashar al asad earlier this year. now to cairo where thousands of egyptians have been rallying in tahrir square today they are denouncing military violence
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against protesters, many of whom were women. at least 17 people have been killed in violent clashes h this week. nbc's ayman mohyeldin is in cairo tonight with the lates good evening. >> reporter: good evening, kate. the street of public opinion could not be any wider. today it was on display just miles away from each other. behind me today in tahrir square, the number reaching close to 25,000. the prodemocracy activists supporting calls for the military to step down from power and to hand over power to an elected government as quickly as possible. they feel the military has exhausted its mandate and is unable or unfit to control more. across the street a short while -- distance from here the egyptian military and their supporters took to the street. there are those who believe the egyptian military retains a great deal of popularity. they say the military is the best institution and the most credible institution to lead egypt through the transition to
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democracy. they say egypt's military has been acting within restraint and leading the country to a better path. back to you, kate. >> ayman mohyeldin in cairo tonight. when "nightly news" continues on this friday evening, the war on cancer declared 40 years ago today. tonight an update on how the battle is going. and later, we'll head back to the gulf coast to check in on a man who's making a difference for a lot of folks who lost everything they had.
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back now with important health news and a major milestone today. exactly 40 years ago, december 23, 1971, congress passed and president nixon signed the national cancer act. it was widely viewed as the start of this nation's war on cancer. tonight our chief science correspondent robert bazell with how things are going. >> reporter: terry minisian learned she had breast cancer in 2003. today she is just fine. >> i am doing better and looking better than i was to begin with. >> reporter: she's one of 12 million american cancer survivors. more than 1 in 20 adults. >> it could give some hope -- >> reporter: in 1971 when president nixon, with bipartisan support, announced a goal of defeating cancer, 3 million americans were living with a cancer diagnosis. in the decades after the national cancer act passed congress, the most important
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statistic, the death rate from cancer, actually shot up for men and for women. since then it has come down, but is now only 11% lower for men and 6% lower for women than it was in 1971. the largest contributor to those changes in both directions was the tobacco use went way up and then started to come down. colonoscopies and other screening tools have lowered colon cancer rates since the early '90s, while early detection and better treatments have brought down breast and prostate cancer rates. the war on cancer, which increased federal funding for cancer research from $200 million a year then to $5 billion a year now has brought an enormous scientific understanding, especially in human genetics. so why hasn't the death rate fallen faster?
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cancer is actually more than 150 diseases where cells grow out of control. many scientists say understanding and controlling cancer is a challenge almost as great as understanding all the details of life itself. >> the cancer cell is a very complex, very sophisticated organism. and we have to learn a great deal more before we are ever going to actually change biology. >> reporter: experts see continued progress in this war, but no imminent victory. robert bazell, nbc news, new york. late word tonight from london that queen elizabeth's husband, prince philip, has been hospitalized after suffering chest pains. buckingham palace says the 90-year-old duke of edinburgh underwent surgery to treat a blocked coronary artery. he's resting comfortably. when we come back, the extraordinary kindness of strangers, paying it forward this holiday a season.
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back now with the kindness of strangers. at discount stores this holiday season.
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it all started in michigan when an anonymous woman paid off layaway accounts for total strangers. the idea spread and now layaway angels are paying it forward from coast to coast, to the tune of $450,000 at k-mart alone. walmart says the same thing is going on there. we get more now from nbc's george lewis. >> reporter: in costa mesa, california, hospital worker monica diaz was overcome with emotion when she found out that a total stranger had paid off her $85 layaway bill. a simple act of kindness that made a world of difference. >> it does feel like an angel. i just told my daughter an angel paid off your gifts. >> thank you! >> reporter: now she says she'll be able to afford a ham for the family's christmas dinner. the employees at the k-mart store here say there is no shortage of so-called layaway
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angels who have been paying off customer accounts. >> i want to say at least a good 30, 40 people, at least. >> reporter: one man, david wilson who owns 16 auto dealerships said he wanted to pay off every layaway account of $100 or less. >> i had to do some figuring and it come to be $15,919.61. >> reporter: then the store employees started calling the 260 customers who benefitted from this. >> the raw emotion. the tears just flow. it's too much to describe in words the emotions we have seen. >> reporter: kristin sepulveda, a stay-at-home mom said she couldn't believe her $151 layaway balance had been paid down to just one penny. >> i'm just happy. it's been a hard six months. it's just so nice to know that people out there care. >> reporter: those layaway angels. >> thank you! >> reporter: whose generosity embodies the real meaning of christmas. george lewis, nbc news, los angeles. >> and all this week we have
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been taking a look at some of the top christmas light displays across the country. to cap off the week we head to a cul-de-sac in the san antonio suburb of windcrest, texas, where some military families are putting on a light show for the whole neighborhood. get this. each house decorated to honor a branch of the armed services. the christmas spirit alive and well, but what about the airing of the grievances? if you watched a lot of "seinfeld" you know exactly what i'm talking about. festivus, a holiday for the rest of us, is tonight. it was popularized by george castanza's dad who said he had a moment of clarity. >> many christmases ago i went to buy a doll for my son. i reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. as i rained blows upon him, i realized there had to be another way. >> what happened to the doll? >> it was destroyed. but out of that, a new holiday was born. a festivus for the rest of us. >> it turns out festivus is real -- sort of. invented by the father of a "seinfeld" writer.
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don't forget the aluminum pole and the feats of strength. up here next tonight, making a difference for folks in new orleans, one house at a time.
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finally tonight, all this week we have been following up on some of our making a difference reports, checking in to see what's happened since our stories first aired. tonight, nbc's mark potter heads back to new orleans for a progress report on a man who's making a difference for families who lost everything. ♪ >> reporter: along a rebuilt street in a city still on the mend, monique beal cannot believe she's just been given a brand new house. it's part of a $20 million gift to help restore the new orleans area known as gentilly. the benefactors are the ceo of barnes & noble and his wife louise who wanted to help those left homeless by hurricane katrina in 2005. >> we are helping people not just get back on their feet. we are taking working class people and giving them a piece of the american dream. >> reporter: in building and giving away homes in the same neighborhood the riggios hope to also resurrect the spirit of
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community. the first 20 homes were completed three years ago and edgar williams was the first to move in. >> i mean, i'm settled in now, comfortable. i don't have to go nowhere for the rest of my life. >> reporter: denise and arthur batiste said they couldn't wait for their house to be built this year. >> we have drove by every evening. >> mm-hmm. >> we got out, walked around the house. >> seeing our new neighborhood -- >> looking at our neighborhood. >> -- before we even got here. >> reporter: the original plan was to build 100 homes here, but a friend of lynn riggio suggested he build 101 homes here as a little extra gift. it's a new orleans tradition known as a lagniappe. at the dedication of the lagniappe, the mayor stopped by to thank the riggios for keeping their promise. >> they came here and did one of the most magnificent things that
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i have personally seen in my lifetime and absolutely in the last six years. >> god has blessed you. and blessed me through you. >> reporter: later that night at an even bigger celebration, there was a serenade from tony bennett as 101 families were told, welcome home. mark potter, nbc news, new orleans. and one more note. one of our updates this week was on fairy dogparents, folks helping massachusetts dog owners care for their pets. no surprise. people really care about dogs. our viewers donated $41,000 this week. $16,000 of that in the two hours after the story aired. find more information on all of our stories from this week, even ones involving humans. you can go to our website, nbcnightlynews.com. that is our broadcast for this friday night. thank you so much for being with us. i'm kate snow, in tonight for brian williams. lester holt will be with you all weekend. for all of us at nbc news, happy holidays. for all of us at nbc news, happy holidays. good night. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com
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good evening and thanks for joining us on this friday, i'm raj mathai. >> i'm jessica aguirre. everything apparently new again and it's causing a frenzy. the quest for air jordan 11 concords turning violent. pushing, shoving, even shottings over basketball shoes. cle mad dash turning into mayhem uding in the bay area where a shot was fired a

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NBC Nightly News
NBC December 23, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PST

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